This is cliché, but you know in My Sisters Keeper when the girl is so sick, pretty much dying of cancer, and they asked her what her pain is and she says 9 even though it was 10? She says she’s saving her 10, it could always be worse or something. A nurse asked me that yesterday so that’s why I thought of it. And I probably felt close to a 7 but I said 5 or 6. I just felt that it couldn’t be that bad and that I had definitely felt things much worse before, I didn’t want to give the pain more credit than it deserved, if that makes sense. You know, like 1 is a paper cut or a scarped knee, 2 is a headache or stomach or nostalgia. 3 could be if all of those things happen at once, or you have to move out of a place that made you happy, or say goodbye for a longer than you’d like to. 4 is a dull achy stress fracture that’s bearable but lasts a month or it’s when you’re so angry you cry and it’s fighting with a good friend, maybe a bee sting or a shot. 5 is losing a friend, seasonal depression, a panic attack in your first college lecture of 300 people, or when you feel like you are about to drown and then you don’t. A kidney infection, apparently, feels like a 7. But in reality it’s a 6, along with getting teeth pulled, and a stick and poke tattoo… 7 is more like the racing heart you get when someone you care about get’s into a car accident and you aren’t sure if they are ok yet. It’s when your whole world seems to be crashing down and falling apart and nothing is going right, but you know it’ll all get better in the morning or at least soon. It couldn’t be an 8 because 8 is when it doesn’t get better in the morning or anytime soon. 8 is heartbreak and the things that still haunt you out of nowhere on sunny Tuesday afternoons and when that song comes on and there’s no known cure but to get back what you lost or to find something better. 9 is reserved for if I ever have something literally life threatening happen, but even then, I wouldn’t necessarily know it was life threatening and so would probably call it an 8 anyways, if you asked. 9 is when something like that happens to someone you love. 10 is tricky because it’s the worst thing you could possibly feel and how would you know that until you felt it? Maybe it would be dying except I think you might stop feeling pain altogether at that point. Maybe it’s a lung collapsing and life flashing before your eyes, or watching a national tragedy up close and personal and questioning any god you believe in (This is morbid but if something was truly a 10, wouldn’t it have to be?). I guess 10 would just be the worst thing you have ever felt but different than rock bottom because that’s more like a 7 since you can still sort of breathe down there. So maybe none of us know if we’ve been there or not or if we will ever be and that’s why we all walk around saving those 10’s like they’re worth something.
It’s just so funny to me how we are so selective with ranking our pains because we are so sure it could always be worse, but with good things, we throw out 10’s, 11’s 20’s everyday for such silly things, because they seem that great at the time and how beautiful is that. One day when you were a lot younger and on vacation without a worry and someone asked, “How happy are you, 10/10?” and you shouted “12!” without hesitation, it probably wasn’t the best you had actually ever felt or will ever feel, but at the moment you couldn’t imagine yourself being any happier. If someone asks how much you love them “10/10?” you don’t say 8 just incase you end up loving someone better later…you say 10, at least, without a doubt and don’t give it a second thought and maybe when you do inevitably love someone better in 10 years you’ll want to say 15. And if it could always be worse like we all decided when we started saving our 10’s, then couldn’t it also always be better?
I’m not saying we should start saying getting stood up for a date or stubbing your toe is a pain level 10 because that’s not true either, or that we should stop saying level 12 happiness when we are next to the ocean without a worry or 25/10 in love with our best friends, because those feel true. I just think the scale should be thrown away altogether because every single pain and happiness is completely different from the next. Some things don’t hurt worse or more, they just hurt different, or for longer, or hit you in a different place. I think everyone has a different place where it hurts the worst. Same with good things. The happiest feeling some people can think of is butterflies, for others it could be when they are completely obliterated drunk on vodka and can’t see straight, for me sometimes I think it’s the first sip of coffee in the morning or driving away from a place I hate to one I love with a killer playlist on.
Maybe telling your favorite person you never want them to talk to you again isn’t an 8-pain, maybe it’s not a number, but it feels like your rib cage is imploding and you’d rather be at work with your kidney swelling out of your body because those sort of tears are easier to hold in. Whereas all your favorite people in one place for once, dancing around the kitchen, isn’t 8-happiness, but it’s a burning heart in a good way and the thing your stomach does when you drive too fast over a big bump and it’s your face sore from being stuck in a smile that feels permanent, even if in only lasts a couple precious hours. That’s why when I was wine buzzed eating pancakes at midnight one night I said I felt like I was in Disney world, and when I finally got my license I felt like I lost 200 lbs (I only weigh a little over 100). When I have a headache I say I feel like a little man is jumping up and down inside my head trying to get out (not 2), and when I’m stressed I feel like water is getting higher and higher around me and I’m running out of air (not 4 or 5). When I have an anxiety attack its like missing the last step coming down the stairs but it never stops (not 7), and when the nurse asked me how bad my back felt I should have said it felt like a knife was there and every time I moved it would twist and burn and sting inside (not 6ish).
We can’t put our hearts and bodies into boxes and exam life and feel things and just number them and put them into lists, and stack them up neatly one by one. There’s no universal code for what’s going on inside us all. So instead of saving your 10, save all of the numbers, and tell everyone how you really feel.